Tonight, I draw your attention to two important articles in this week’s Science Magazine. The first is of report of an inactivated viral vaccine for SAR-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The investigators used an inactivated virus that could no longer infect cells (or people!) and gave it to primates. The animals showed that this inactivated vaccine could protect the primates, at least short-term, from reinfection.
This report is important because inactivated viruses are the mainstay of anti-viral vaccines. For example, most of the flu vaccines used today are made from inactivated viruses. Because many of the vaccine candidates that are being developed for COVID-19 are novel and have never been shown to be effective human vaccines, it is reassuring to know that a well-defined, standard technology could be useful to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. Because of this, this technology might be the best bet for an effective vaccine in the short term. There was also no evidence that the vaccine made the infection worse, which has been reported with SARS vaccines.
In another article, the conundrum of why patients develop gastrointestinal symptoms with COVID-19 was at least partially answered. Investigators from the Netherlands showed that SARS-CoV-2 can infect not just the lung but the gut cells that line the intestine. This infection of the gut could easily be responsible for the intestinal symptoms of COVID-19.
In a time when research is often suspect and “published” on line without review, it is reassuring to see a quality scientific journal like Science Magazine continue to provide valuable contributions that enlighten our discussions.